The Case for Purpose, The Case for Better

The Case for Purpose, The Case for Better

The purpose in putting pen to paper, making those marks across the page. The purpose in pressing keys and moving the mouse. The purpose in proposing change, in newly minted hope. Are they the right ones? Are they the ones that we will be most proud of tomorrow, or in ten years.

The reason why I ask is because of all of the things that our skeptics have challenged us with, the charge of purpose is the one that weighs the heaviest upon me. Even the would-be advocates and the late-adopers, these people matter because they cause us to push ourselves into the areas of purpose. Why would we use Google Docsrather than Word? Why should we push for open standards? Why should we create learning drastically different learning environments using tools that require a lot of professional and personal investment?

The purpose matters in what we do.

We should be able to articulate it clearly and readily. In speaking to the Math teacher on my team, she asked me what the purpose of a scribe post was in the face of other, more simple techniques for getting kids to collect what they have done in the classroom from day to day. It took me aback after we had watched the wonderful K12 presentation on the subject (Release the Hounds). My breath was caught in my throat for just one second. Am I a charlatan? Do I, in fact, have a reason for working so hard to implement blogging in the classroom other than the fact that it is my natural instinct as a connected teacher to want to connect my kids to one another and the world.

For too long I have shied away from questions about whether or not blogging will help teachers do things quicker, more efficiently, or better. I have made the argument that blogging and other environment influencing tools help to create a different system, a different type of classroom, so how can you possibly compare the two. But that is not giving a purpose. That is shifting the target. That is saying to all of the potential stakeholders that your goals are no longer valid; these are the new and improved measurements of success.I’m not sure that we can win with that argument because it dodges the whole concept of purpose.

‘Why should we change’ is a fundamental question that cannot be answered by a hypothetical appeal to a 21st century economy that may or may not exist in the near or distant future. That cannot be our main avenue to get change accomplished. To a certain extent, we must be able to explain how the collaborative tools and the pedagogy of creation and authenticity will help to get kids and teachers to someplace better, not just someplace different.

We have to make the case for “better.”

So, my question to everyone who reads this is how have you made the case that the way you do things is not just different, but better? How have you taken your learning network and been able to show that it isn’t just a bunch of educational nerds in a vacuum? How have you shown someone purpose behind what you do?


  1. GingerTPLC

    Thank you for posting this. I just came back from a conference where I was an alien in the room for talking about online collaborations and real-time networking. Most didn’t seem to buy in to what I was saying so, falling back to my old “don’t push it with the non-believers,” I decided to work 1:1 with the few who were interested and let their excitement ripple throughout the crowd for me. For some reason, my personality or look or breath or *something* really puts people off the new ideas coming from me and they’ll listen to someone else if they say the same things. It works for me. I’m used to it. So I play that card.

    So I had the occasion to really work the “purpose” question through. I try to do everything in life, and I mean everything, with the question of “what’s the purpose” in the forefront of my mind (including getting frustrated with people who refuse to even consider a new way). No purpose = not wasting time on it.

    But to answer the question:
    First and foremost, what schools are currently doing with students is plainly not working. There may be (likely are) many variables to what is causing many, old practices to no longer work, but it is undeniable that overall a change of some sort is needed in how we approach learning and “schooling.” Unless some one else has another idea for what should be tried, these ideas are as good as any that I’ve seen in engaging students, expanding their world of consideration, ie thought processes.

    Secondly, HR people in business and industry are calling for people who know how to work in a team (remember that I teach in a primarily project-based environ). Teams may or may not be meeting in real-life anymore. Right now, presentations and planning new pedagogy is being done over distance inside education. This is also being done in other areas. Our students need to not only know how to work in teams coming together, but also across distances w/o making the cultural gaffes that are frequently made in “noob” interactions. When we train people in the environment in which they’ll work, first they’re comfortable there and secondly, they can easier adjust to the changes that inevitably occur over time. If we don’t begin allowing them to experience this environ today, the leap for them in the future will be literally multi-decades wide! That is NOT good for the US economy or national security at the very least! (I can develop this line of thinking more if someone needs me to)

    Thirdly, maybe we don’t know where we’re going. But interacting in this way takes the drill/kill to the backseat where kids have to learn material because they’re immediately going to a deeper level of understanding. There’s a purpose to learning the countries/capitals of the world because we’re blogging about world news or talking to people overseas. There’s a purpose to learning foreign languages. There’s a purpose to be able to read/write/understand our historical texts. US students are so ego-centric (adults too, for that matter) that we only think about ourselves and in a global economy, a global environ, we really do need to look outside of ourselves and for the first time in history that’s readily achievable by every single person. To work/learn internationally is the first step to coming together to be able to solve the bigger problems of the world. I am able to have much more hope for humanity because of these tools.

    Yes, I’m a big-picture thinker. Not everyone is, but it’s what allows me to survive the knocks and set-backs of everyday life. If I’m sinking in quicksand and don’t look to the horizon for help, I will surely die. My eyes, in education, are focused squarely on the horizon, and to those who love the minutae of paperwork or policy, I look like a fool somedays. But, to mix my metaphors, I like to think that the forest, as a whole, is a very good place to focus in order to be able to affect real and lasting change.

    Thanks for asking this question!

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